Thursday, September 15, 2016

In a New York Minute

Hi everyone and many greetings from the Empire State!  I have been back in the U.S. for just over three weeks now and am completely over any trace of jetlag, food poisoning, or other malaise (except for missing Drogo, of course!).  After going down to Washington two weeks ago and spending a hot second at our favorite national park in West Virginia for Labor Day, I quickly returned to the City to get back into my New York groove.
What groove, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you!  Basically, days consist of an early wake-up, checking the telly for what's going on in the world, running downstairs for coffee (the gas has been out in my apartment building for months now, which is fine since I use my oven for storage, but not being able to boil water is a little annoying), heading to the gym for a workout (on a proper elliptical machine - my little legs are so happy!), coming back up to shower and dress (loooove Western water pressure - almost makes up for the gas sitch!!), and then off again to find a quiet, comfortable work space where I can camp out for the rest of the day and address Toa needs.
At first, I was just going around the corner to the Starbucks on Greenwich (aka the Derek Jeter Starbucks, where he was often photographed when he lived in the West Village and where I spent countless hours stalking him sipping delicious coffee beverages last year).  Now, I have been going farther afield, investigating the small libraries around my alma mater, Columbia, as well as down at NYU, and other non-Starbucks coffee shops and, let's be honest, wine bars around town.
I knew it would be a busy Fall and I must be Kreskin (call me amazing!) because that prediction is totally on point.  Every waking minute of the day, there is something to do!  Good Lord, this business of expansion is busy-making!!  But it's also a lot of fun and I love that the running of Toa Nafasi has gone from a one-woman show to a full-blown Team Toa effort.
Here, in the States, Mom and Pop are on-board as Secretary to the Board and General Counsel respectively.  Our U.S. Board of Directors are all here in Washington with the exception of Veronica Rovegno, who resides in Dar es Salaam, and who I hope to catch up with upon my return to Tanzania.  We are also a newly minted pro bono client of the law firm Akin Gump whose associate Lucy Lee is helping us to navigate the murky waters of corporate sponsorship and matching grants.  With her contacts and a perky presentation from Yours Truly, we are hoping to entice employees of places like JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citibank, and Bank of America to contribute to the Project.
Back "home" in Kilimanjaro, my affectionately nicknamed troika, HGH (Human Growth Hormone or Hyasinta-Gasto-Heidi) are holding down the fort, Heidi quite literally as she has taken up residence in my "Fort Knox" while I'm gone.  We keep in touch with regular email and Whatsapp contact and are whipping things into shape slowly but surely.
The big thing to be done this Fall is to get our operating budget in proper working order.  Obviously, this informs EVERYTHING else, so Heidi and I are working to make it as accurate as possible.  Once that is more or less finalized and approved by the Board, we can use it in future grant applications, reports, and the like.
A part of getting this budget into workable shape is figuring out the new system of paying the teachers' salaries with NSSF (basically, social security) withholding and income tax.  It's been a bit difficult to get everything just right, but I think we are now on the level and once the system is in place, it will be a cakewalk to keep up.
We are also shoring up our list of potential funding opportunities.  Heidi has created a list of resources based on what came before, mainly through Rhiannon's and before her, Lizzy's, work.  Carla and I have attempted to add possibilities to this list by going down the the Foundation Center and spending a little time searching their databases.
I am also working on a paper titled "Gaining Through Training: Cultivating a Professional Persona in a Rural Setting" which, if accepted, I will be presenting at next year's IASE (International Association of Special Education) biennial conference in Perth, Australia.  It addresses the way in which Toa Nafasi has provided employment opportunities to local women which have not only bestowed them with a paycheck but also with a newfound skilled status.  Additionally, the current and past presidents of the organization have invited me to be part of the planning committee for the 2019 conference to be held....  Dum dum dum!....  In Arusha!!  Of course, I told them that Team Toa would be most delighted to help.
Heidi has already made herself invaluable to the Project by creating a cache of new documents that will enable us to keep track of things more smoothly.  In addition to the Funding Resources List, we now have a template for a donor database which I will start to fill out with all our current donors and their information.  We also now have templates for MOUs with our participating schools, parental consent forms, photo/video consent forms, an agenda for our introductory meeting to parents new to the Project, and the start of an employee handbook which will clearly state the rights and responsibilities of each staff member.  Asante sana, Heidi!
The Toa Nafasi video is nearly complete and we are just waiting on a few finishing touches by Miss Marytza, videographer extraordinaire, so we shall soon be sharing that footage with all our friends of the Project.  Asante sana, Marytza!
Lastly, we are finalizing Toa Nafasi's first official report since being awarded a grant!  Last year, The Masalina Foundation, a family foundation out of Paris, France, awarded The Toa Nafasi Project a generous grant for which we are incredibly grateful.  The terms of the funding however were quite loose with not much reporting requested from their side.  Yet, under Heidi's tutelage, we (mostly Heidi, Carla, and myself) have taken this opportunity to draft a report back to them to show how we spent the money.  It's been a bit of a learning curve for me though I have made progress.  The idea is that grant-writing and then the subsequent report-writing utilize language that is very different from what I would normally use (no shock there!), so the question becomes how do I write a report that employs that type of writing without losing my own voice?
Definitely a give-and-take process, and I probably wouldn't care so much about this particular report except that it was our first grant and one on which Rhiannon and I had so much fun racing to the deadline to complete, so I want to give it it's due diligence.  Thus, I've been line-editing and proof-reading for over a week and it's still not quite right.  For future proposals and reports, methinks I'll leave the grant-writing and its attendant vernacular to Miss Heidi, but I'll just finish this one up and be out of her way!
Think that's all the news that's fit to print (though there's soooo much more: I highlighted my hair, signed up for OkCupid, and bought a new pair of boots, for starters....), so I shall sign off now and come back to y'all next week with further haps.  Take care, everybody!!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Africa Rising

Heading down to West Virginny in just a bit to celebrate Labor Day weekend with Carla and David - and Julia in absentia - but saw this cool article from the Tanzania Daily News and thought I'd do a quick post!

In a political "moment in time" fraught with question marks (and exclamation points), I thought the idea of this "Kilimanjaro Declaration" was pretty innovative.  What do you all think?


A new version of the Arusha Declaration to be known as the "Kilimanjaro Declaration," has been launched in Arusha under the same theme of self-reliance but with a broader continental focus.

The Kilimanjaro Declaration was born at the MS Training Center Development Cooperation (MSTCDC) in the Usa River area of the Arumeru District.  It was unanimously signed by more than 250 delegates from nearly 45 African countries who gathered in Arusha for the "Africa Rising" conference and its related continental movement.

The Kilimanjaro Declaration of August 2016 gets born again nearly 50 years after the original Arusha Declaration was launched here by the first president and father of the nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in 1967.

Speaking at the event, the Public Interest Campaigner for the Africa Rising movement, Mr. Irungu Houghton said the Kilimanjaro Declaration treads within the footsteps of its mother manifest, which promoted unity and self-reliance among Tanzanians.

"The Kilimanjaro Declaration also calls for self-reliance, in which African countries will no longer rely on donor communities or developed countries for funds, aid, and support.  This will help build confidence and total freedom," said Mr. Houghton, who is also the Director of the Society for International Development.

The Declaration statement goes like this: "We, the citizens and descendants of Africa, as part of the Africa Rising movement, are outraged by the centuries of oppression.  We condemn the plunder of our natural and mineral resources and the suppression of our fundamental human rights."

"We are determined to foster an Africa-wide solidarity and unity of purpose of the peoples of Africa to build the future we want - a right to peace, social inclusion, and shared prosperity."

On his part, Mr. Abdillah Lugome, a youth and human rights activist from Tanzania, said the Kilimanjaro Declaration was written in Kiswahili as the "Azimio la Kilimanjaro," and that all correspondences, meetings, and conferences related to the manifest will be done in Kiswahili to promote the continent's widespread language.

Over 400 million people, among the Africa's population of one billion, speak Kiswahili.

The Conference declared that: "Africa is a rich continent.  That wealth belongs to all our people, not to a narrow political and economic elite."

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Eight Things

Hi everybody, I hope this blog post finds you all well.  I'm doing better my second week back in NYC, about to head down to DC for the holiday weekend and spend some time in the old Rosenbloom homestead.

Still, I wanted to put up a quick post before I traveled, and this article by Larry Ferlazzo for Educational Leadership, the flagship publication of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development caught my eye.  Check it out!


Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say, and Do

Among the many challenges teachers face, often the most difficult is how to engage students who seem unreachable, who resist learning activities, or who disrupt them for others.  This is also one of the challenges that skilled teachers have some control over.  In my nine years of teaching high school, I've found that one of the best approaches to engaging challenging students is to develop their intrinsic motivation.

The root of intrinsic is the Latin intrinsecus, a combination of two words meaning within and alongside.  It's likely that our students are intrinsically motivated—just motivated to follow their own interests, not to do what we want them to do.  Teachers' challenge is to work alongside our students, to know their interests and goals, and to develop trusting relationships that help students connect their learning to their goals in a way that motivates from within.

How can teachers do this?  It's helpful to consider this question in three parts: What skilled teachers think, what they say, and what they do.

What Skilled Teachers Can Think

What we think guides how we view the world, including how we view challenging students.  Developing and maintaining three mind-sets will help teachers maintain their equilibrium in the face of behavior or resistance to learning from certain students that would ordinarily knock us off balance.

1. Remember that authoritative beats authoritarian.

Being authoritarian means wielding power unilaterally to control someone, demanding obedience without giving any explanation for why one's orders are important.  Being authoritative, on the other hand, means demonstrating control, but doing so relationally through listening and explaining.  Studies of effective parenting have found that children view parents who use an authoritative style as legitimate authority figures; such children are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.  The opposite is true for children of authoritarian parents (University of New Hampshire, 2012).

2. Believe that everyone can grow.

Many teachers are familiar with Carol Dweck's distinction between a "growth" mind-set and a "fixed" one.  When we have a growth mind-set, we believe that everyone has the inner power to grow and change.  We see mistakes as opportunities to learn.  Holding a fixed mind-set leads us to believe that people's traits—such as intelligence—are immutable.  A mistake on the part of someone we believe is unintelligent seems to validate that belief.

Teachers aren't superhuman.  There are some things we cannot accomplish.  But we must ask ourselves whether we too readily write off students who try our patience as "incapable," or some similar adjective, without considering whether differentiating instruction for these students might spur change and growth.

3. Understand that power isn't a finite pie.

I was a community organizer for 19 years before I became a teacher.  A key lesson I learned was that power isn't a finite pie.  If I share the power I have, that doesn't mean I'll have less.  In fact, the pie will get bigger as more possibilities are created for everyone.

Power struggles are at the root of much misbehavior.  William Glasser (1988) believes that students have a basic need for power and that 95 percent of classroom management issues occur as a result of students trying to fulfill this need.  Having more power actually helps students learn.  Giving students choices—about their homework, assignments, how they're grouped, and so on—leads to higher levels of student engagement and achievement (Sparks, 2010).

What Skilled Teachers Can Say

4. Give positive messages.

Positive messages are essential to motivation.  Subtle shifts in teacher language infuse positive messages throughout our interactions.  Here are three practices I've found helpful.

Use positive framing.  "Loss framed" messages (if you do this, then something bad will happen to you) don't have the persuasive advantage that they're often thought to have.  "Positive framed messages" (if you do this, these good things will happen) are more effective (Dean, 2010).  Positive messages that connect students' current actions to broader student-identified hopes or goals are different from "if-then" statements focused on what teachers want students to do ("If you don't get out of your seat without permission, then you'll get extra credit").  As Daniel Pink (2009) notes, such extrinsic manipulations don't develop students' higher-order thinking skills or long-term commitments to change.

Say "yes."  Avoidant instruction is language that emphasizes what people should not do ("Don't walk on the grass."  "Don't chew gum").  Some researchers (British Psychological Society, 2010) believe that a more effective way to get a desired behavior is to emphasize what you want people to do.  For example, if a student asks to go the restroom, but the timing isn't right, rather than saying no, I try to say, "Yes, you can.  I just need you to wait a few minutes."  Or if a student is talking at an inappropriate time, instead of saying, "Don't talk!" I sometimes go over and tell that learner, "I see you have a lot of energy today.  We'll be breaking into small groups later and you'll have plenty of time to talk then.  I'd appreciate your listening now."

Say "please" and "thank you."  People are more likely to comply with a task (and do so more quickly) if someone asks them instead of tells them (Yong, 2010).  I've found that "Can you please sit down?" is more effective than "Sit down!"  Saying thank you provides immediate positive reinforcement to students.  Research (Sutton, 2010) shows that people who are thanked by authority figures are more likely to cooperate, feel valued, and exhibit self-confidence.

5. Apologize.

Teachers are human, and we make plenty of mistakes.  There is no reason why we shouldn't apologize when we do.

But saying, "I'm sorry," may not be enough.  I often use the "regret, reason, and remedy" formula recommended by Dorothy Armstrong (2009).  For example, one afternoon my students Omar and Quang were paired up in my class but were sitting passively while everyone else focused on the task at hand.  I said sharply, "Come on now, get working!"  A few minutes later, I said simply to the two boys, "I'm sorry I barked at you earlier.  I was frustrated that you weren't doing what I'd asked you to do.  I'll try to show more patience in the future."  They clearly focused more energy on their work after this apology.

What Skilled Teachers Can Do

6. Be flexible.

Being flexible might be the most important thing teachers can "do" to help students who challenge us—in fact all students—to get past whatever challenges of their own they confront.  Three practices help me differentiate instruction and classroom management in a way that helps everyone.

Help them get started.  Psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik identified the Zeigarnik Effect: Once people start doing something, they tend to want to finish it (Dean, 2011).  If we get a disengaged or anxious student started, that's half the battle.  For a task that's likely to challenge some students, present a variety of ways to get started: a menu of questions, the option to create a visual representation of a concept, a chance to work with a partner.  Encourage students to launch themselves by just answering the first question or the easiest one.

Help postpone tempting distractions.  Making a conscious decision to postpone giving in to temptation can reduce a desire that's getting in the way of a goal (Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 2012).  My student Mai was frequently using her cell phone to text message during class.  I didn't want to take her phone away, so I made a deal with her—she could text in my classroom during two specific times: from the moment she entered the room until the bell rang and as soon as the lunch bell rang.  Since we made that deal, Mai hardly ever uses her cell phone during class.  Even more significant, she hardly ever uses it during our agreed-on times.

Acknowledge stress.  As most of us know from experience, people tend to have less self-control when they're under stress (Szalavitz, 2012).  When a student is demonstrating self-control issues in my class, I often learn through a conversation with him or her that this student is going through family disruptions or similar problems.  Sometimes, just providing students an opportunity to vent worries can have a positive effect.

7. Set the right climate.

Pink (2009) and other researchers have found that extrinsic rewards work in the short term for mechanical tasks that don't require much higher-order thinking, but they don't produce true motivation for work that requires higher-order thinking and creativity.  However, everyone needs "baseline rewards"—conditions that provide adequate compensation for one's presence and effort.

At school, baseline rewards might include fair grading, a caring teacher, engaging lessons, and a clean classroom.  If such needs aren't met, Pink (2009) notes, the student will focus on "the unfairness of her situation and the anxiety of her circumstance.  You'll get neither the predictability of extrinsic motivation nor the weirdness of intrinsic motivation.  You'll get very little motivation at all" (p. 35).

8. Teach life lessons.

My colleagues and I frontload our school year with what we call life-skills lessons.  These simple, engaging activities help students see how it's in their short-term and long-term interest to try their best.

For example, a lesson might highlight how the learning process physically alters the brain.  This particular lesson encourages a growth mind-set.  It was eye-opening to one of my students who had claimed, "We're all born smart or dumb and stay that way."  In terms of keeping up kids' motivation, the times throughout the year when I refer back to these concepts and reflect on how they apply to learning struggles are as important as the initial lessons.

What We Can Always Do

Consistently implementing these practices is easier said than done—and is probably impossible unless you're Mother Teresa.  But most teachers already do something that makes all these practices flow more naturally, and that we can do more intensely with conscious effort—we build relationships with students.  Caring relationships with teachers helps students build resilience.  By fostering these relationships, we learn about students' interests and goals, which are fuel for motivation.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tragic Traffic

Greetings from New York City, dear readers, where I have recently touched down for my yearly Stateside sojourn.  This year, aside from battling the typical jetlag, I have been laid low by a bout of food poisoning resulting from a suspicious (but - at the time - delicious) Caesar salad.  That said, I will be brief as I recuperate, and simply post another current article from the Tanzania Daily News.

This one resonated with me because the lack of traffic laws and traffic safety measures affect all of us in the Tanzanian community, but most predominately, the kids with whom Toa Nafasi (and other organizations) work.

Driving around Moshi town, I often lament the jeopardy of no traffic lights or street signs and bald reliance on roundabouts; the poor planning of parking lots or lack entirely thereof; the utter absence of sidewalks which leads pedestrians to walk unsafely in the crowded streets; and the streets themselves: a hodge-podge of beat-up cars and daladalas (small public transportation buses), wayward motorcycles and careening 4x4s, bicyclists, wheelbarrows and bajajis (tiny three-wheeled vehicles that basically look like kids' toy cars), all competing for the right of way, all moving at top speed.
However, I am relatively safe inside my vehicle and rarely walk around town anymore (aside from the inconvenience and danger, walking around Moshi REALLY takes its toll on your shoes!); it's those who have no choice on their mode of safari who have to bear the brunt of the African "Wild West" streets.

And of course, those most at risk are children, especially on their way to and from school, ESPECIALLY those with intellectual impairments that make them particularly susceptible to the social dangers of the outside world.
It's nice to see that the Tanzanian Traffic Police are now starting to see the problem and are mobilizing the local communities to address it.  Hopefully, this is not a flash-in-the-pan initiative, but rather a plan that will grow stronger and spread wider.

Tanzania: 30 Schoolchildren Killed, 68 Others Injured in Accidents in Six Months

Road accidents have claimed the lives of 30 schoolchildren in the past six months, injuring 68 others, according to Traffic Police statistics.

Traffic Police Commander Mohammed Mpinga said over the weekend that the number of the killed pupils is part of the total 1,580 deaths caused by road carnage.  Mr. Mpinga noted that for the period between January and June this year there were 5,152 accidents.

He was speaking in Dar es Salaam during an event to mark the end of road safety competition for pupils in the city.  Organized by the Puma Energy Tanzania Limited, the competition involved 10 schools whereby a total of 25 pupils participated.

The winner of the competition was awarded various school items and would travel to Geita Region to participate in activities to mark the National Road Safety Week early next month.

Mr. Mpinga said the Traffic Police, through their current strategy, are focusing on educating more children, old people, and people with disabilities on how to cross the road and observe other road safety measures.

"It is through such education that we can save the lives of our schoolchildren.  As we are starting another six months, we should ensure that there is no death of a pupil due to road accident," he pledged.

He added that the education would be extended to the rural areas after learning that road safety awareness is mainly done in urban areas.  Puma Energy Tanzania General Manager Philippe Corsaletti said, "Road safety is part of our agenda.

We should focus on educating schoolchildren since they are at risk most."  So far, the company has reached 30 schools whereby 38,600 pupils were educated about road safety rules.  "We intend to reach all schools in the country, with support from the local governments and Traffic Police," he said.

Ilala Municipality Vocational Education Officer, Ms. Hellen Peter, said awareness on how to cross the road was still low among the pupils, a situation which contributes to the deaths of the school children in accidents.

"We need to strengthen efforts in providing road safety education to the pupils," she appealed.  She also called on extending such education to the children in rural areas."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Samaritan in Same

Hello friends, and pole sana for not writing sooner.  As you may have guessed from my last post, I have been busy welcoming Toa Nafasi's newest staff member, Heidi Lidtke, to the Project, to Moshi, and to life in Africa generally.

We have been awfully busy since Heidi and her husband Geoff's arrival nearly two weeks ago, so I am just gonna post a recent article from the Tanzania Daily News out of Dar es Salaam.  I hope to have original content for y'all in the new few weeks!


Tanzania: Society Urged to Support Disabled Children

Same district, Kilimanjaro region — Mr. Jonas Kadege, who is a member of a non-governmental organization (NGO), The Kitaa Foundation, has called on the society to be closer to children with disabilities to learn and understand challenges they are facing and support them to lead a better life.

Mr. Kadeghe was handing over food and education materials to Same Primary School leadership.  He expressed his concerns on how many parents and guardians stay away from the children.

He said it was pertinent for parents and guardians to make a close follow-up on matters related to disabled children in education institutions so that they make informed decision and attain their goals.

"There are many children in different schools, some have different types of disabilities and they really face complicated challenges, but if we come out, make follow-ups, they will turn them into opportunities, forget their miseries and move forward with success," said Mr. Kadeghe.

He noted that the solution for disabled children is not to separate them from others and build their own school.  Rather, they need affection and support from others who have no disabilities and together could prove successful in lessons and life generally.

Mr. Kadeghe said the government should work together with different stakeholders to ensure disabled children who have neither parents nor guardians live a decent life by getting all their needs, especially education.

"The society around them is duty-bound to take care of them jointly with the government and other stakeholders.  The children will feel that they are equally important like others as they would lead normal lives like those who live with their parents," said Mr. Kadeghe.

He was paying tribute to his former school, saying from then on he would be with disabled students at the school.  He requested other Samaritans to join hands with him for the noble cause.

Speaking after receiving the support, Same Primary School Head Teacher, Mr. Richard Mpokera, unveiled that apart from pupils who have no disabilities, there are those with albinism, with poor sight and the blind, adding that there was a special unit taking care of them.

"We have students who have no disabilities but also here are some with albinism, partial sight while we also have the blind and need proper attention in and out of classes," said Mr. Mpokera.  However, he said the school leadership faced many challenges in meeting the students' needs and serving them, singling out food shortage and medical needs.

He added that the food was mostly needed by those with albinism.  "In the past, we had a sponsor who footed medical costs of all disabled children, so our task was to send them to clinics and clinics in turn sent the bills to the benefactor," he said, adding that the benefactor has since suspended giving funds.  The Head Teacher noted that Same District Council has been in touch with the school, covering some of the costs in transporting students, whose clinics are at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC).

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hei Hopes

Big news, dear readers, big news!  We have a new staff member at The Toa Nafasi Project!!

Heidi Lidtke has packed up her life (and her husband's!) and moved from the great state of California, U.S.A. to Moshi, Kilimanjaro to join us in the role of Fundraising, Communications, and Program Manager.

She will be working with us full-time to raise the profile of the Project on social media and other related publicity outlets as well as employing her considerable knowledge and experience with grantwriting and fundraising in order to diversify Toa Nafasi's sources of funding.

Basically, she is the trainer and we have just now entered the gym.  So, GAME ON!

Here's Heidi in her own words, and much more to come!

Heidi brings her experience in international development, as well as her passion for community development, to The Toa Nafasi Project.  Heidi has worn a number of professional hats.  Most recently she was adjunct faculty at a California university and taught classes in Community Health, Global Women's Health, and Food Policy and Culture.  Prior to this she worked on numerous grants as a program officer for topics including community development, HIV and AIDS prevention, nutrition, and smoking prevention and cessation.  Heidi has shared her expertise in program development and nutrition through contract and volunteer positions in India, Haiti, Mexico, and a number of African contexts.  She also taught yoga and assisted teaching SCUBA diving for a few years.
Karibu sana Tanzania, Heidi!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Of Schnoz and Schmeckel

I *think* the title of this blog post is my attempt to outdo Steinbeckian titular alliteration - in Yiddish no less - but pay my cleverness no mind; what I'm really referring to is the work Toa Nafasi does post-assessment.

To refresh, after testing all the Standard One kids in the first couple months of the school year, our Toa Nafasi staff are able to determine who is doing poorly.  From there, we conduct interviews with the parents to find out a bit more about the child's history: Mama's pregnancy and labor, her relationship with Baba, other family members and the nature of the home environment, the child's milestones and general development, significant illnesses or other issues that might contribute to some kind of problem at school.

In past years, we've gotten a bunch of the typical concerns: stomachache, flu, malaria, UTI.  We tend not to do much with these cases unless the child is chronically ill; after all, Toa Nafasi is concerned with Education, not Health - except where Health impedes the flow of Education.
We also get some hearing and vision issues, which we test at KCMC, provided a parent accompanies the student and is present for the doctor's examination and recommendations.  Since Toa Nafasi's inception, we've seen a lot of conjunctivitis and earwax.  Last year, we helped two young students with severe hearing impairment to receive inner-ear surgeries as well.
Other shida (problems) which have presented during the course of Toa Nafasi's tenure are: epilepsy for which we work with the Peds department at KCMC; various skin conditions and allergies, dealt with at KCMC's fine Dermatology clinic; and bone deformities and physical disabilities, again treated at KCMC in the Occupational Therapy department.
This year, we have added the Dentistry department to the list.  Several of the kids have truly rotting teeth which I'm not convinced detracts from their performance at school but certainly doesn't help.  (Neither too does the soda the parents buy the kids while we wait at KCMC.  Last week, while we were there, one little tyke was double-fisting a Coke and a lollipop as we were waiting to hear from the dentist how many teeth he's gonna yank.  When I chastised the Mama, who no doubt had just bought the sweets to quiet down a complaining and tired little patient, she said, "Leo tu."  "Today only."  Better be, Mama, because dental on the Toa Nafasi dime is a one-shot deal!)
Anyhoo, as in past years, we continue to discover children with nyama puani, literally translated as "meat in the nose."  I believe that in prior years, this condition was explained to me variously as adenoids and/or tonsils.  Not knowing what either adenoids or tonsils really are, I kind of just accepted "nose meat" as a viable condition, afflicting multiple children in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania and perhaps beyond.  See:,
This year, faced with another nose meat situation for young Neema, I actually took the time to figure out what the heck everybody was talking about.  Turns out it's really a deviated septum and all these little kids are requiring septoplasty!  Good to know!!  (I should assure my readers here that I never had any doubts as to whether what the docs were doing was legit vis a vis nose meat, since all was explained in Swahili to the parents and they gave their consent, and each child is the better for the nose meat removal, but I do feel a bit more informed knowing now what all this schnoz talk is about....)
Neema had her surgery early last week and is currently laid up at the Ear, Nose, and Throat ward in KCMC recovering.  We hear the procedure was a success and she has been relieved of any unnecessary and unwanted meat in her nose.
Another interesting new condition that we stumbled upon this year is known as "hypospadias."  (And here I must render an aside that THE HUMAN BODY IS ENDLESSLY FASCINATING.  Any aberration is possible!  And most are fixable!!)
So moving from the schnoz to the schmeckel, we can say that "Hypospadias is a birth defect of the male urethra where the urinary opening is not at the usual location on the head of the penis.  It is the second most common birth abnormality in boys, affecting approximately 1 of every 250."  WHO KNEW?!
Since neither Hyasinta nor I is in the habit of checking students' schmeckel health, here's how this situation went down....
We were conducting parent interviews at one of the satellite schools, Mnazi, when we met Mama Twalibu*.  She seemed unsurprised that she had been called in about her child's poor performance in school.  We went through the usual questions and when it came to significant illnesses, well, let's just say it took a while for either me or Hyasinta to fully understand.
Mama called Twalibu over to "show" us the problem but before he could drop trou, we told her it was not necessary that we see said schmeckel, but that we would try our best to help Twalibu who was born with two holes on either side of his penis rather than one on the head.
I don't think there was anything hugely life-threatening about this state of affairs except that the poor child had already endured FIVE botched surgeries to fix it!  And the parents were saving up for a sixth which would have cost them nearly a million Tanzanian shillings (about $500usd), after which point, who would know if this was truly meant to be the final operation??
Additionally, I extrapolated - in my overly empathetic Sarah way - that the kid must have a lot on his mind.  Any difference from your peers is hard on a kid, physical differences even more so since they are so noticeable - I should know, half my body is covered in freckles - but a difference *down there*?  Big shida!  Poor thing was probably agonizing in self-doubt and tortured by his classmates.  Or so I conjectured.
Also, the two holes must have been a rather messy business and here in Africa where the toilets are already dirty ruts in the ground with no clean water and soap to wash, he is open to more infection than the average child.
And when he becomes sexually active, it appears there's a lot of different ways hypospadias can play out....  I'm sure you can imagine....
We took Twalibu and Mama to my doctor, the good Dr. Makupa, where he was given excellent service (I could not bear to subject Twalibu to KCMC for such a delicate task) and referred to a Dr. Mbwambo's clinic in town.  Mbwambo, like Makupa, provided Twalibu excellent and timely service and the little guy is currently recuperating at the clinic, hopefully to return home next week WITH NO NEED OF ANY FURTHER SURGERY.  Schmeckel accompli, Hyasinta reports Mama is very happy and we shall go visit the patient tomorrow!
So, friends, wherever you all are, all around the world, take heart in knowing that Hyasinta and I are here in Moshi, a fearless two-woman team, going around fixing schnozes and schmeckels for under-performing kids in public primary schools in rural Kilimanjaro!  Hapa Kazi Tu!!
*The name has been changed to protect the schmeckel owner's identity.